I will start off by saying, no! Deadlines will always be a crucial part of any business, but we might need to reconsider the way we use them.
Imagine you need to make a holiday dinner for four people when all the stores are already closed. Innovation and ingenuity is required, especially since you have a vegan friend coming together with another friend that is gluten-free. This trouble could have been prevented if you had just prepared in advance, made the necessary research and shopped beforehand, leaving enough time to cook the perfect meal. The dinner is a success (after all, you know how to improvise) but it could have been so much better with a little planning.
If you ever had the chance to work with Israelis, you know that we are fluid in our approach to time management. As our startup nation grows, we have started to improve, but how do we meld our dynamic way of thinking with strict time management processes?
A threat to any young start-up is the risk that they might become irrelevant even during the development phase. This is where the Israeli dynamic and agile spirit kicks in, allowing us to adapt our solutions in order to meet market needs or just develop a new product in record time as a response to a market event. The downside is this quick and agile method does not always result in truly complete and competitive products. Our challenge is to develop an evolved approach that can contain agility and discipline under one roof.
So how do we get on with it?
When facing any project, create assignment blocks with non-negotiable deadlines. Within each block be agile with room for extra maneuvering. For example, the new version of your product will be released three months from now, but the features might change according to market trends. You can be open to changes within the first month to month and a half, but after that the race is on to complete three month goal.
Define in advance the need you’re trying to solve and make sure that the solution you are building truly fits these needs. Make sure your team knows where the project is heading, the issues that cause delays, and the most urgent issues to solve. Create an information-transparent environment so that all team members can see the big picture and not get fixated on specific tasks without knowing their relevance in the big picture.
How this looks in real life:
Build timeline blocks
Set hard dates that you will not cross, the completion of which represents an accomplishment. This needs to be an organizational commitment.
- Make sure that your employees are involved in this process and understand the meaning of the commitment you have taken.
- Timelines must be aggressive yet realistic. Otherwise this simply will not work.
- Factor in delays, bugs and problems that are difficult to anticipate.
- Once your deadline blocks are created, start creating tasks and sub-tasks that will keep you on track towards your goal.
Open all lines of communication
Invest relatively more time in the strategizing and planning process and communicating it to your coworkers. Feedback should be received over all channels.
- Micro and macro – Have some of the workers think macro while others think micro. The macro thinkers should always have a high-level understanding of the most urgent and important aspects of the project. Than, let the micro people do their jobs, but also encourage them to re-think everything. Decisions should be part of discussions, not dictations.
- Tackle communication blocks – Have mailing lists, dashboards, screens, or any thing that can help people communicate. Always evaluate and make sure your solutions are supporting your communication goals.
- Prioritize – See what are the most important / time consuming / effective tasks and start building a task table prioritizing them. Tools like Jira / Trello are a must to keep everyone on track.
Evaluate and measure
Within the assignment block, constantly evaluate where you are at with each task, and how necessary it is within the big picture.
- It’s a human tendency to spend time on something because of the sunk-cost or the time already invested. Stop and ask yourself- If not for the time spent, would I still be working on this task?
- Run a daily, weekly and monthly meetings to make sure the process is running smoothly.
- Detect the task that might jam the wheels of your project and invest as much as you can in solving it before it becomes an issue.To sum things up, today’s tech world is very different from what it was 10 years ago. We need to be much more precise and deal with an even more dynamic environment. Make sure that your time management is not managing you and that you have the right tools and routines to keep you striving towards your goal. Leave no prisoners and dump every assignment or work method that does not work for you.